Last week I gave an example of the difficulty of engaging in moral discourse. I originally wasn’t planning on writing this message, but as I wrote last week’s message I thought it might be helpful to share some thoughts as to why this is the case and how this came about. I should note that these are my own thoughts and they are fairly speculative. But I think they are worth considering. As a Classical school we believe that the present is intimately linked with the past and that understanding the past is a prerequisite to understanding the present. My hope in this message is to shed light on the present by briefly analyzing the past few decades.
In summarizing the methods of early communist revolutionaries Dostoevsky wrote “it was with the idea of systematically undermining the foundations, systematically destroying society and all principles; with the idea of nonplussing every one and making hay of everything, and then, when society was tottering, sick and out of joint, cynical and skeptical, though filled with an intense eagerness for self-preservation and for some guiding idea, suddenly to seize it in their hands.”
What does Russia in the 1860s have to do with us? It is my belief that we have all been born into and are living through a moment of moral upheaval. Since (approximately) 1968 there has been an ongoing cultural revolution. Below are a few brief examples:
- Consider the rapid and ubiquitous spread of pornography over the past few decades. God created sexual intercourse in order to bring eternal souls into existence, but in pornography we pervert it into play acting and posturing, into something to be packaged and sold commercially for the consumption of others. In our sin we reduce human beings that bear God’s image to a collection of body parts and, what is arguably worse, we have determined (via Supreme Court case law) that our right to do this is constitutionally protected.
- We made abortion a constitutional right and thereby violently separated sexual intercourse and child-bearing.
- Marriage used to be considered a lifelong union that should only be broken in very limited circumstances. With no-fault divorce one party can unilaterally break a marriage for any or no reason. (And many more people are simply choosing not to marry.) This radically reshaped the family, particularly where it comes to the responsibilities of child rearing.
- God designed marriage as a covenant wherein we humans receive new life (children) and mutually encourage a fellow believer to persevere in Christ. Over the past half century we redefined marriage as a means for the pursuit of individual happiness. From this definition it logically followed that those of the same sex should not be deprived of the right to pursue happiness, but should be allowed to marry.
- And if gender roles are things we as a society create and recreate (which same-sex marriage assumes) then why should we not allow individuals to create, recreate, or redefine their genders?
Please hear me: my goal is not to make a political point but simply to show that in the last half century we have collectively deconstructed sexuality, gender, and the family. We all were born into and are living through a period of upheaval wherein many of our foundations have been attacked and many have been utterly annihilated. When all foundations are gone, when there is nothing left that everyone agrees on, it becomes practically impossible to have productive moral discussions. How can you talk about the moral code found in the Bible with someone that thinks we are the random and meaningless result of unthinking material evolving over time? How can you talk about the immutable spiritual essence of femininity or masculinity with someone that believes people are only matter? I don’t know that you can. Once foundations are destroyed it becomes incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to discuss the things that were once built on those foundations.
Nonetheless, next week I will conclude this series by giving some thoughts as to how we can engage in moral discourse in our society.